Chinese Tycoon Eyes Australia’s Melon Farming Industry
CK Hutchinson Holdings, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, acquired two melon farms located in Australia's Northern Territory which is one of the major melon producing provinces Land Down Under.
The farms measure nearly 1,900 hectares and were owned by Stuart and Kane Younghusband. The purchased also included groundwater extraction licenses which amounted to as much as 10,148 megaliters per year.
The lands used to be operated separately but generated a combined 25,000 tons of watermelons annually. This would mean that the farms accounted for 50 percent of all the melons produced in the Northern Territory. With this, the acquisition is said to be one of "the most significant horticultural deals" in the history of the Australian province, according to agricultural consultant Ian Baker.
Baker told ABC News the average selling prices of melon farms in the Northern Territory horticultural industry is between $5 million and $10 million. CK Hutchinson Holdings bought the two farms for $27.5 million.
Baker said the whole province produced as much as 50,000 tons of melons. The new owners, however, could face challenges with exporting the farms' produce as there are currently very limited international trading involving Australia's melons. The main challenge would be how not to overproduce as overproduction could impact prices.
Australia's melon industry is also just recovering from a tainted reputation resulting from the deadly listeria outbreak in April. The contaminated fruits caused the death of seven people, according to the World Health Organization. The tainted fruits had also been blamed for one miscarriage. The soiled fruits were exported to Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, Reuters reported at the time.
On the other hand, Australia's melon industry was valued at $176 million in 2016. The country has been exporting seedless watermelons, rockmelons, honeydew, and Piel de Sapo melons all year round. These products are usually exported as cut fruits, juiced, or included in fruit salad products.
The whole of Australia has 250 melon growers who produced 231,000 tons of melons per year. Aside from the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales have also been contributing to the melon industry in Land Down Under.
Australia is seemingly close to Li's heart as he also donated $3.25 million to a world=first immunotherapy trial in the Land Done Under. The project, hence, was named after him - Li Ka-Shing Cell and Gene Therapy Initiative.
Li is ranked number 23 in the list of the richest people in the world. As of January, his estimated net worth is currently at $37.7 billion.